Poetry

Honorable Mention: “Dig” by Mary Peterson

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“This poem packs dark but beautiful imagery into a single stanza.  The second person format pulls the reader into the work, creating a sense of immediacy that is both striking and chilling.” 

~Vol 5, Poetry Board 

“Dig” by Mary Peterson

They gathered
in the bronze hollow
of a brittle ribcage,
and combusted
to rust the Black holes
of your chest,
the pupils expanding
and eating light
unfolding from the chrysalis,
swallowing echoes
where cocoons unreel themselves
into the belly of inversion,
the belly of the earth
where you dug and found
the snail whose shell
was a cup.

Honorable Mention: “A Public History” by Max Siewert

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“We would like to honor this poem for its honesty and the power of its message.  It is funny and relatable, but by the end has transcended into something deeper, something that speaks to the true history of our culture.”

~Vol 5, Poetry Board

“A Public History” by Max Siewert

 

I sit here steeping in the History

Of Our Land, a class, and my eyelids dense.

A teacher, shrill at his pulpit, recites

to the silent rows of desks and students:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are…” my pen drops, my sight blacks

the desk legs tremble and I hear Ocean –

seeking depth in the sands of my inner beach

I can see our true Lady Liberty

kneeling in the dirt. She’s draped in the dull

jade gown which she filched from the Iroquois,

Catawba, Choctaw, and Creek. The Natives

who shared their fish, corn, wisdom, and knowledge

with the savages who would betray them

eventually to steal their hunting grounds,

burn their homes, rape their women and children.

 

 

I see why she stoops so low now, and how

her crown pines for the Nature that once was,

Nature that hides now in the oaks who shed

their trunks and rot into divinity.

 

 

So deep is my reverie that the scepter

held by Lady Liberty does not shine,

guide, shimmer, or teach, but instead it falls.

Falls in black ashclouds – grime culled from the backs

of Germans, Italians, Chinese, and from

the husband who brought family by ship

to polish the shoes of Christians who called

him yellow. Or the daughter, destitute

and attending men in brothels for coin.

Or the minister told that he knew not

the word of God and would be spurned heaven.

They will never hold the scepter, and so

it falls like stinging sweat from the fissured

palms of Africans, Irishmen, and Jews.

There was the grandmother of eight who stole

what time she could from her master to teach

her son, daughter, and grandchildren how to read.

There, in a gutter, lived the lonely wife

who left home to best famine, and still

had to bury her children in the mud.

And there was the street-sweep who knew the burn

of warm spit on his forehead all too well.

 

 

All together they were Americans.

Beckoned by Lady Liberty’s gold staff

to the eastern coast of teeming land where

they first beheld its radiance, as if

only in a dream, then ceded life’s breath

to paint with truth the lungs of Our Land

and the sickly veins of its governance.

I hear the collective voice of lives past:

the dying utterances of the slave,

the immigrant, the first woman to vote,

the soldier, the farmer, the criminal,

and the jailer, and they are one Ocean.

Their waters will cover her feet and lick

her shins until she falls like cornhusk.

And the men, women, and children will come

clad in white to form a circle of one,

one nation and one people gathered here

together to cast a single acorn

into the pit and declare this Their Land.

 

 

My eyes open and so too do my ears

to a teacher sleepy at a lectern

spouting a message addressed to none but

me: “…we mutually pledge to each other

Our lives, Our fortunes, Our sacred honor.”

Honorable Mention: “For the Singer at the First American Encounter Against Impunity, Morelia, Chiapas Mexico” by Katherine DeGrandpre

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This poem tells a story, capturing the heart of a people and a time in history with soulful elegance.  It couples striking imagery with repetition that builds meaning throughout the final stanza.” 

~Vol 5, Poetry Board 

“For the Singer at the First American Encounter Against Impunity, Morelia, Chiapas Mexico” by Katherine DeGrandpre

You had a voice so big I couldn’t hold it on my back.

You opened your mouth and brought down torrents of rain and corn

and you stood before us singing of raw voices and cracked hands.

-

You sang to me, compañera, Zapatista, and a baby with the face of Mexico grew in my womb

and my body strained with your vocal chords, arms pulling me up a full, steep moutain

to work the milpa and carry the baskets of meal I held on my back.

-

Your voice seeped into my skin in the universal language of eyes and song

and I remembered the rocks used to build this road, inplausable, breaking my white shoulders.

I heard the cry of picks, and people singing with raw voices and cracked hands.

-

I learned the meaning of solidarity, the earth leathered man next to me crying too

and I was a child humming comfort to my compliant American parents,

with a voice so big we couldn’t hold it on our backs.

-

And hands and throats around me tightened

and bodies shook like clear cut trees and so many lost generations,

and we quietly sang with raw voices, and cracked hands.

-

And as your keening died away, my hands became those of a child, reaching for yours

and I awoke deep in the exhaling mountains, surrounded by wide eyes like dense wood

and your song was so big I didn’t hold it on my back

but in my throat, yours and mine, singing raw voices, cracked hands.

Honorable Mention: “The Far Field” by Mary Peterson

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“In “The Far Field,” Mary Peterson creates a series of rolling images that build quickly.  Her lines read fast and breathless, creating an urgent tone in harmony with the poem’s rhythm.  Through the speaker’s strong voice and conviction, the reader can vividly imagine Peterson’s scenes and the emotions those images convey.”

~Vol. 5 Poetry Board

“The Far Field” by Mary Peterson

I dream of journeys repeatedly:

Of wings not strewn to sails or a fixed compass south,

Of the singular beat of flockless flap,

Above east-west logging roads where ash covers,

Settled into footprints of predators still hungry,

Hanging on to dry-bones,

And shadows hold their breath as the night inhales the moon,

Clinging trees tilt to the sunken days,

And time stops for just a side-kiss with sunlight,

Where charred branches curl to soil,

Deep in the burnt yesterday of forest,

In the branch the Great-Horned does not speak but watches,

For absent tiptoes.

 

 

At the field’s end, in the corner missed by fire,

Where tires cradle rabbits amidst prisms of broken glass,

Foliage creeps between sluggish mushrooms,

Not too far away from the ever-changing flower dump,

Among bees molded in tin-combs

One learned of the eternal:

Petals rusted in honey and dead bugs puddled on the tongue of a bird

(I found it lying among the rubble of an old bin)

And the half-carcass of a bear half-scavenged,

Blasted to death by the night watchman.

 

 

I suffered for both sides of the stream,

Sitting in the muddled colors before morning is morning,

To hear the pitches of birds apologizing for blindness,

I listened and listened to the shape of their call

As the song blinkered into chirps that miss the constancy of dawn

And the horizon that does not rise or follow,

Drifting with moments,

Like the stitch of wings over wind,

While the wrens bicker and sing in the half-green hedgerows,

I’m in the river-wake of momentum.

 

 

–Or naked in sand,

The still pulses of erosion,

Thinking:

Once I was something like this,

Or perhaps another effect

 

 

The river turns on itself,

And the sediment is clumping to the hollows of fallen earth,

I feel a weightless change, not a moving forward

But at the center of cycle, a standstill

Where the warp collects alluvial normalcy

No longer can I hide in rifts as rifts.

 

 

I stare at the fungus breeding,

My mind moves in more than one place,

On both sides of the sand-dial on its side,

At the bottom of a river.

 

 

He is the end of things, the final man,

When a broken compass is still a compass,

Containing what the night cannot say,

In the empty beaks that will not fly,

And let the ash flood to foliage.

 

 

Time and place are loosely absolute:

And even the meadow at the edge

keeps their illusion in a safe,

in the wings of a dragonfly

that, before petals thirst,

seem to search for droplets,

so that ripples are or maybe

not casted from one mind.

Honorable Mention: “Firefly” by Sarah Johnson

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Sarah Johnson is a Senior majoring in Creative Writing and Spanish from Billings, Montana. She writes that she loves “clear mountain mornings, golden retrievers, and the sound of crackling ice under my boots.”

Firefly

Bourbon legged swagger,
creased white cowboy hats
turn towards her
nightly melodramatic entrance
to sip frothy ales and stare
at tobacco crusted fingernails;
they already know her record,
the untamed firefly
who leans over green velvet
staggers into the 8ball and shuffles
stained boots to creaky fiddle strokes,
stepping on wrecked peanut shells
which remind her
of the crumbling roses she forgot
on the counter weeks ago;
she will whisper in their ears,
hum ribbed lullabies
to apologize for empty glasses and
yesterday’s futile romance.

Honorable Mention: “Tessa” by Jaycey Ells

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Jaycey is a junior in creative writing and from Bozeman, Montana.

Tessa

We would go on walks.
She would dance, and sing and
twirl around old lamp posts,
in tune with the rain drops,
knocking against the concrete.

“Oh!” She would say, as her
hand slips from the poll,
revealing black paint chips
stuck to her like new swim
trunks-

just tighter than normal, so
they don’t fall off.

We would go on walks.
I would watch her red hair cling
to the back of her wet neck like
a roller coster, as she spun in

yellow light, her face glowing
like a jelly fish at the bottom
of an old ship wreck, stopping
to admire

broken Dresden china.

Honorable Mention: “Its a wash” by Conor Ryan

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Conor Ryan and hails from the small town of Ennis Montana where there are 100,000 fish and a 1,000 people. He is a senior studying psychology and enjoys most things about Missoula.

Its a wash 

Last nights rain bled
the chalk drawings on your driveway
and the little stick girl holding hands with to the little stick boy
next to the question mark
were sucked into the abyss
and out comes a weed hanging its head,
he knows he cannot win.
Rows of concrete slowly fight off the darkness that blankets them
and a caterpillar braves the open land
passing underneath a crow without notice.